Is a basic income the solution to persistent inequalities faced by women?

Is a basic income the solution to persistent inequalities faced by women?
Basic income: a step forward for women? Credit: Russell Higgs/Flickr

March 8 is International Women's Day, and despite a range of laws and policy measures, many gender inequalities seem firmly entrenched. Given the persistence of such discrimination, what can be done? One innovative policy measure that came to the fore in the 2017 French presidential election is the basic income. A recent Council of Europe resolution confirmed the continuing interest, as do feasibility studies and new local-level experiments in Scotland, Finland and elsewhere in the world.

Yet is this the policy solution for and persistent gender inequalities?

Women already at risk

There are a number of reasons why a basic might seem like a good idea for women. They're already disproportionately represented among those in poverty worldwide. It has also been found that the link between current welfare systems and paid work systematically disadvantages women: women are more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for others, they have lower access to income transfers, they tend to be paid less for the same work and they continue to face barriers to access high-paid occupations.

A position of financial weakness can also lead to other disadvantages, including the risk of domestic violence that results from financial dependence. Given that a basic income would break the link between earnings and welfare payments and would be paid to individuals rather than households, it could provide some women with more financial stability, predictability and independence.

A top-up for underpaid women?

A basic income also has the potential to protect those in low-paid jobs that women tend to dominate. With a modest and reliable income, workers would not be pushed into the first job that comes along. They could seek a better match with their skills and experiences as well as higher wages and improved conditions.

Many sectors where women dominate the workforce are low-paid. Indeed there is an implicit expectation that workers in health, education and care do what they do because the job is important, not for the money. So there is a risk that a basic income might be used to subsidise poorly-paid work for women without addressing the undervaluation of female-dominated occupations in care and services.

Hidden risks

The unequal division of labour in the home is perhaps the root cause of much gendered inequality. An unconditional basic income means there is no requirement that the recipient perform any care work, meaning that men who do very little at home would still get the same payment. On the one hand, those who work more, relying on others to do the care work, would effectively contribute to carers receiving basic income via their taxes. As basic-income advocates highlight, _everyone _relies on the unpaid care work disproportionately performed by women – basic income might thus be a way to address the freeriding of those who fail to do their fair share.

On the other hand, a basic income might serve to entrench the gendered division of unpaid labour, encouraging those with home-care responsibilities to further withdraw from the labour market. This concern is not limited to basic income: in Sweden, a subsidy to support parents caring for their own child at home faced strong opposition as a "trap for women". A decision for the lowest-paid workers – often woman – to withdraw might seem rational at the household level and in the short term. However, this apparently autonomous choice then combines with pay inequality, gendered disadvantages and cultural biases, leading to problematic outcomes for the woman in the medium to long term and at the societal level.

The value unpaid work for society

A basic income could be regarded as one that truly values unpaid care work by recognising the non-market nature of the activity and its interaction with cultural and ideological influences. Indeed even sceptics recognise that such a payment would be more transparent than disguised subsidies for carers in receipt of unemployment benefits as a source of income. A basic income could also be a way to free up the gendered division of labour in the home for a more equal society. However, those same cultural and ideological influences are also a "force" that leads to women – even the well-paid ones in full-time work – doing more of the unpaid work in the home.

Proponents of gender equality argue that real change requires a rebalancing of the distribution of labour both inside and outside the home, but so far progress on the latter has outstripped the former. This leaves women with a "double shift". So a basic income, even for proponents, should perhaps only understood as one element of a wider package of policies aimed at reducing inequalities whether by age, class, education or gender.

Part of the solution or a risk?

Ultimately, a basic income might be an effective way to treat some of the symptoms of wage inequality and unequal access to the . However, it does not deal with the underlying causes. Indeed, a range of policies are required to break persistent gender inequalities.

Some of these policies need to target men and their behaviour in paid and . Such policies might be aimed at shifting the culture of society toward one where all workers – men and women – can be caregivers, and incentivise role-sharing within households through equal access to leave. On its own, a is unlikely to encourage a fairer distribution of care and may indeed render the current unequal role sharing economically viable with unintended consequences for equality goals.


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Mar 08, 2018
Basic income is self-defeating in the first place, because it makes people demand higher wages for simple low-value but necessary jobs.

Picking up trash, emptying septic tanks, data entry jobs, night guard at the factory etc. would simply go without workers if everyone gets a "living wage" by default, and so the society would have to up the incentive and pay a disproportionally high price for these tasks. The cost of such labor then trickles up the stack, into the cost of other business, and eventually the basic income loses all its value through rapid inflation.

You have to remember that half the people will never be doctors and lawyers, or engineers and artisans doing their dream jobs. They just don't have the skills, or there isn't the demand. Giving people free money isn't going to change that - it just gives you the possibility to do the next best thing and slack off completely.


Mar 08, 2018
Paying people a basic income means there's a chance that they might find something more fulfilling to do with their lives than do the jobs I recognise as necessary but personally find repulsive or demeaning.

There's a danger here, that as the streets fill up with filth, people will see the necessity of these jobs and realise we might have to pay people properly to do them.
That will cost us all more money.

How can we create a society where I won't be neck deep in rats and feces, but not actually pay people reasonably.

Why not create a poorly educated underclass who have no hope of anything better.
Then they will be forced to do it or face destitution and I won't have to see things that upset me.
And I get to keep my money, which is the most important point.



Interesting.

Mar 08, 2018
This is good so I do not need a 9-5 job. I can go teach kids my IT skills, support my favorite non-profit, write more songs, teach martial arts, etc :)

Mar 08, 2018
How can we create a society where I won't be neck deep in rats and feces, but not actually pay people reasonably


You forgot the part where people are already paid reasonably for these jobs, and the basic income would be paying them the same amount or only slightly less for doing nothing. If you can get 80% the income for 0% the effort, why would you work?

Effectively, with the basic income, you'd have to pay the same people a double income to get them back to work. That would mean the price of basic services goes up, and so all the prices go up until the value of the basic income is sufficiently close to zero again.


Mar 08, 2018
This is good so I do not need a 9-5 job. I can go teach kids my IT skills, computer programming skills, support my favorite non-profit, write more songs, teach martial arts, etc :)


do it all for FREE ... imagine that :)

Mar 08, 2018
The point is that things like garbage collecting have their value, but they don't have infinite value. We can't afford to pay garbage collectors like kings for the simple service they provide, because then we'd have no money left over to do anything else but pay the binman.

Why not create a poorly educated underclass who have no hope of anything better.


Half the people have an IQ below 100. You can't educate everyone, even if you had jobs for all the highly educated people who are sitting on unemployment or working the cash register at the supermarket as it is.

A great portion of the people who go through college never find jobs in their field, yet the industries are crying for more STEM education. Why? Because they want to over-saturate the labor market to push the wages down.

Mar 08, 2018

You forgot the part where people are already paid reasonably for these jobs, and the basic income would be paying them the same amount or only slightly less for doing nothing. If you can get 80% the income for 0% the effort, why would you work?

In my country they have tested a basic income of 560 euros per month which is barely enough to live outside bigger cities so the rents are not that high. The minimum salary here is about 1200 euros so the basic income is not even half of it. I don't know where you got your numbers but your arguments are pretty invalid in this case.

Yes, the basic income makes it possible to survive without a job: You spent around 200-300 to rent and you have almost 10 euros per day for food. If you really want to live, you still need a job. Even so, you don't need to work full weeks and you can balance your work and free time.

Mar 08, 2018
Great insight on the STEM demands, Eikka. Altruism is rarely part of the business bargain and flooding the market to force domestic wages down has the ring of truth to it.

Mar 08, 2018
The minimum salary here is about 1200 euros so the basic income is not even half of it. I don't know where you got your numbers but your arguments are pretty invalid in this case.


Well of course the argument changes there. It's not a basic income then if you can't reasonably live on it, is it?

The point of a basic income or UBI is to, and I quote:

With a modest and reliable income, workers would not be pushed into the first job that comes along.


The point is that you don't have to work if you don't want to, and it's not just about getting some meager poverty-level subsistence income, but in context it actually means being able to support a family - the way the article describes basic income is like being paid a wage for being a housewife.

But, take the small B-I and apply the same logic: since you only need to work half-time, you are still effectively paid twice for the same job, and the cost of your labor to the society doubles, hence inflation.

Mar 08, 2018
The thing about social welfare is that you're either on welfare, or you're working. If you're working AND on some sort of redistributive welfare, it's always equivalent to a subsidy on labor.

So, if your wages remain the same, you get effectively overpaid for whatever it is you're doing, and that makes little economical sense and discourages people from even trying for higher education, since they can climb to junior engineer level salaries just clipping grass and serving coffee on minimum wage (plus UBI).

If on the other hand your wages drop because you can now afford to accept lower paying positions, the subsidy turns into a reverse-robin-hood wealth transfer from the poor to the rich, since your income remains the same and the employer reaps the benefit.

Or both cases may apply in part, such that your income drops slightly, but is still greater for the same work performed, yet your employer is getting the work done cheaper.

Mar 08, 2018
What people don't realize is that they are actually giving away your work. Money is nothing more than a promise to perform ;work at a future date. Thus if you save money, government spending in excess of taxes collected is a hidden tax on your savings. The "Rich" have most of their money in investments not savings. The poor have little if any savings. Programs like this, tax the middle class right out of existence by devaluing their "Work" credits.

Mar 08, 2018
Thus if you save money, government spending in excess of taxes collected is a hidden tax on your savings. The "Rich" have most of their money in investments not savings.


This charade started in the New Deal when the government took upon itself to "save" the people from the great depression by bailing out the insolvent banks by pumping them full of government credit (debt). This new money got rid of the gridlock that was caused by stocks speculations where everybody had borrowed money from everybody to gamble on the stocks market and nobody could pay anyone back.

But, after paying back their old debts, people made new ones, and the money started collecting up to the rich who were lending people all the money and taking interest, and so the government got stuck in maintaining a perpetually increasing level of national debt to keep the inflation perpetually on the positive side to avoid another great recession.

Actually, they should have just let the banks fail.

Mar 08, 2018
Well at the very least the government should force a bank into bankruptcy if they cannot pay their debts and need a loan to continue doing business. If the shareholders loose all their money perhaps other banks will be more careful. Part of the problem during the last banking crash was the fact that the government FORCED them to make loans unqualified buyers.

I can see the rational behind the FDIC since very few depositors are savvy enough to know if a bank is being run properly.

Mar 08, 2018
On the other hand, a basic income might serve to entrench the gendered division of unpaid labour, encouraging those with home-care responsibilities to further withdraw from the labour market.

Ya know...Why don't we ask those who do this unpaid labor their opinion? Can you guess what they would answer? Do you think the 'retreat' into caring for a sick family member or children or doing the dishes for their lazy husband of their own free will?

It's sorta crazy that the only people who ever discuss whether this would be bad idea are those who have a big paycheck (i.e. the NON-experts on the subject of what it would do).

Mar 08, 2018
"just clipping grass"

Don't knock it Eikka. Here in the North East we have lots of needy lawns and plenty of trees trying the take them over. Landscaping services are not cheap!

If you are willing to work outside under all conditions landscaping is an ideal way to become self employed.

One of the major failures in the US primary educational system is it's failure to place more emphasis on the trades. As many have found out, just having a degree is no guarantee of finding a well paying job.

Mar 08, 2018
"Do you think the 'retreat' into caring for a sick family member or children or doing the dishes for their lazy husband of their own free will?"

Anti you are trying to turn what is a personal family responsibility into a government responsibility.

I had to wipe my rear end an extra time today, when can I expect the government check.

Mar 08, 2018
I never imagined basic income to be so high that it could actually support a family. I think that is plain stupid as Eikka pointed out. But a marginal basic income that barely supports you and in theory gives you the freedom to be unemployed sounds only good to me. I did not mean that you should get the same salary by working less. I meant that you can be fine with a salary of few hundred euros if you got the basic income to back it up.

Then all the effects that Eikka has talked about should not happen. Salaries don't need to be raised because the jobs are still needed to live good. Yes, lower salary jobs can become more common but it does not mean that salaries would drop. Before a company could have hired one janitor to work full week. Now it can hire two working half week paying the same amount. It's always an excellent argument to say that companies ripp you off what ever happens but I dont belive so

Mar 08, 2018
Ever walk through neiman marcus? $1000 chukka boots, $2500 for really stupid looking sneakers. Who buys that stuff?

I bought a pair of $100 black jeans at Lord and taylor right after xmas. The only reason was they were on sale for $35, which is more pricey than the $20 walmarts I am used to, but come on - theyre $100 freaking jeans. Which is less than half what their most expensive black jeans are.

Again - who has a whole wardrobe full of clothes like this? Answer - lots of people. Lots.

BTW my fancy jeans are button fly which is a pain. I guess button fly is yet another pointless expression of extravagance now, just like zippers were when they first came out.

Mar 08, 2018
This article consists entirely of political opinion much of it contradicted by peer-reviewed papers on human psychology. It is in no way science or has anything to do with science. Maybe the editors of this site could restrain their own rather leftist predilections and keep the site free of such crap.

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